It was the 23rd of May in the year 1999. I had been to school in the morning and performed my daily routine. This consisted of waking up, getting dressed and going on the bus. Everything seemed normal and nothing was out of the ordinary. However, I remember thinking that something was wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I knew something was not right. I didn’t take my phone and therefore, I couldn’t gain access to any messages. I am a creature of habit and on this day I stuck to it like superglue. It was 1pm in the afternoon and it was time to have lunch. I didn’t have much of an appetite as I felt an impending doom sweep over me. It was like having a bad smell that I couldn’t get rid of. That fear led to extreme levels of anxiety and panic attacks. Everyone at school was trying to find out why I was feeling this way but I didn’t have answers. I spoke to my friends about it and said that I was being paranoid and should stop worrying. It was now 3pm and time to go home. The feeling of fear that I had been experiencing suddenly turned to great excitement as there was a wrestling show on that afternoon, which I was recording and was going to watch with my family. It is always a tradition in our house to have everyone get together and enjoy the show. I went on the school bus beaming with happiness and my smile couldn’t be removed from my face. The staff on the bus gave me weird looks, as nobody could understand why I was so happy.
There was an unspeakable joy in my eyes and face that could not be explained. I walked through the door screaming at the top of my lungs, “I’m home! I’m home! Let’s watch it!” That smile was removed from my face very quickly. I walked through the door and saw my mum in floods of tears. She was crying and screaming as if she had just been burned by hot water. Shock and horror fell over my face. She grabbed and hugged me, putting her hands over my head. We sat on the sofa to see my brother and father also in tears. The feeling of fear and anxiety that I had experienced before had returned only this time it was more intense. The unknown was also part of it because I was unaware of the reason why my family were so distraught and was desperate to find out why they were in such pain. I asked if we were going to watch the show and they all begged me not to watch it. Why? What was so terrible that meant it was best for me not to watch? They had never had any issues with watching wrestling before. I was then told of the reason for the tears and anguish that my family had been feeling. “Owen’s dead.” Two words uttered from my mother that had the impact of a thousand baseball bats to the chest. Owen Hart, a native of Canada, one of my favourite wrestlers of all time and best friends had just taken his final breath in front of a sold out crowd in Kansas City. “No! No!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. The feeling of happiness and joy I had felt previously now turned to a feeling of darkness and terror. I tried to put a sentence together but no more words would come out.
Suddenly, my legs buckled and I began to fall backwards. The back of my head was about to land on the rock hard floor until my mother caught me and ensured that I landed on the soft sofa. My eyes were wide and my mouth was open in shock. Several minutes went by without a word being spoken. The silence in my household was deafening as we all sat there contemplating what had just transpired. I managed to speak one word, which was a question. “How?” The answer was that he had fallen from the ceiling in a stunt that had gone horrifically wrong. At first, I didn’t believe it. There must have been some kind of error or mistake. From what others have said about him, Owen had always been a very cautious man and would never take that kind of risk given the dangers that are associated with it. I managed to convince myself that diagnosis was nothing more than misinformation. I took the control and put the show on. All I saw was a camera shot of the audience looking on. The announcer was stating that this was not part of the show and that a real incident had occurred. From what my family told me. the look on his face mirrored the look I had on my face. It was pale and grey with very little colour in it. However, it wasn’t confirmed immediately that he had passed away.
As a result, I still had a glimmer of hope that Owen was still alive. I liken that glimmer of hope to a candle that is about to burn out, yet there is a hint of a flame that was still flickering. I along with everyone in my house felt extremely helpless and confused. There was nothing we could do to find out his condition. As he was being wheeled out on a stretcher I hoped and prayed that he was going to be ok. The announcer informed us that he was receiving CPR because his heart had obviously stopped beating after the impact. I had never been one to fast forward wrestling under any circumstances. However, on this occasion I didn’t care about anything else on the show and just wanted to see if one of my best friends was still alive.
Although nothing was said about his condition when the incident occurred, the facial expressions and body language from those on camera told me everything I needed to know. I had no choice but to prepare for the worst. I still had hope that I was refusing to let go of. As the situation progressed, it became painfully clear that the ending we wanted to this horrific incident was merely wishful thinking.
It was approximately an hour after the incident that the announcer gave us the news that we were all dreading. This next sentence continues to echo in my mind to this very day: “Owen Hart has died. Owen Hart has tragically died from that accident here tonight.” It was a strange feeling because as a teenager at the time, it was my first real experience with death and loss. There was something very surreal and raw about this situation for me. I began to cry hysterically and my parents tried to be comforting by assuring me that I would be ok. They knew that I had lost someone very important to me. It would take me a very long time to get over this, if I ever could. I was young and still in the process of forming my opinion of the people and world that I lived in. Now, I had lost a very inspirational figure that I looked up to. I didn’t manage to get any sleep that night as I laid in my bed obsessively thinking about why this happened.
I began to think about why people die in the first place. Is it because they did bad things in their life and therefore, deserve to be punished? If that is true, Owen's death doesn’t make any sense because he was a friend and a brother to everyone. Or is it just their time to go? Even today, I still have not come up with an answer to that question. The next day, there was a tribute show in his honour, where the wrestlers left their fictional characters and genuinely spoke from the heart about their memories of him.
My family and I shed many tears during that show as we watched it to its end. After the tribute show we all felt a mix of different emotions. We were naturally upset but felt that he was shown great respect. Although I was not lucky enough to have actually met Owen, I still considered him one of my dearest friends, as he was there to make me smile, laugh and put me in a better mood if I was having a bad day. That’s everything I look for in a best friend and Owen certainly did that for me on a daily basis. While others had the opportunity to pay tribute to Owen, I never had the chance to do so.
Owen, I know you’re up in heaven and in a much better place. You are and forever will be at peace. Selfishly, I miss you and wish I could see you one more time. I used to love your practical jokes and your laughter lit up every room you were ever in. However, I want you to know that your memory and legacy lives on. Thank you for every time you made me jump out of my seat due to laughter or frustration because of your antics. While you were taken from us far too quickly, you definitely made an impact and an impression on the people who knew and watched you. I hope that as I go through my life, I can be as good a man as you were so that I can see you again someday. Goodbye my friend.